Strengthening Partnerships: Lessons from the 9th East Africa Hub Meeting

by James Tayler

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Rippon sanitation unit. 

**Cross-posted from the Muungano Support Trust Blog** 

By Shadrack Mbaka, Muungano Support Trust, Kenya 

Just as the word “Hub” denotes, it’s a center of activity or interest; a focal point of deliberating on common regional interests. It is for this fundamental reason that the 9th SDI East African Hub meeting hosted by the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU), brought together participants representing the East African countries under Slum Dwellers Federation namely; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The hub meeting is held quarterly and rotated between member countries. This quarter the meeting was held in Uganda and hosted by the Ugandan SDI Alliance. The meeting’s theme, “STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIP” brought in representatives from the countries’ support NGOs, Town Clerks and Officials from various Ugandan Municipal Councils.


Ms. Sarah Nandudu, the Vice Chairperson of the National Slum Dwellers of Uganda welcomed the participants and introduced them to the program for the next three days.

5 Cities Seminar

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Mr. Hassan Kiberu the Uganda Federation National chairman kicked off the meeting with a keynote speech expressing his joy to host the meeting and urge the participants to make the good use of this forum in addressing the needs of the majority federation members whom which we represent.

In his speech to KUT members, Hassan reiterated that the SDI East African family as slum dwellers; We are the People! We are the Problems! and We are the Solutions!

These solutions cannot be met without integration and embracement of partnership with all stakeholders and actors in a bottom up driven change process. Hassan wound up his speech by calling a one minute silence in remembrance of fallen leaders who have passed on. The one minute silence was mounted in honor of the late Muungano Wa Wanavijiji Chairman Benson Erick Osumba, Tanzania Councilor who has been a friend of the federation and many other federation members who have lived their lives in a quest of making slums inclusive in the settlement developmental agenda. He urged the meeting to remember in prayers Catherine and Uganda Driver Mr. David, Sky Dobson who were involved in a fatal accident and are recovering.

Site Visits

The participants were grouped into three groups for site visits as follows:

Group One:    Rippon, RIMAS saving groups and Danida Savings groups

Group Two:   Masese Sanitation Unit, Street Lighting & Walukuba Learning Centre

Group Three: Rubanga Sanitation & Drainage System & Bugembe Water Project

Official Opening

The three-day forum was officially opened by His Worship the Mayor of Jinja Municipal Council alongside with His Town Clerk, Presidents of the Municipal Development Forums and Town clerks from various Municipalities.

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The Jinja Mayor, Muhammad Baswari Kezaala (pictured above) invited the participants attending the 9th East African Hub and welcomed them to Jinja. He acknowledged that the poor have a right to the city, and therefore the need to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich. This partnership is as a result of a leadership that appreciates the course of the poor. We shall continue to partner with the NSDFU and will continue to do what is asked of the Council,” said Mayor Muhammad.

He appreciated donors for the funding and giving them a free hand to design and tailor projects that suits Jinja. The involvement of the poor in development projects is important in long-term sustainability of community participatory projects.

The East African Hub has demonstrated regional integration of three East African Countries unlike the level observed by the heads of states. The programmes under the flagship of AcTogether have planted the seeds of real programmes and projects to empower the poor.

The 9th East African Hub Meeting was also graced by the Lands, Housing and Urban Development Hon. Daudi Migereko. Initially the government faced numerous challenges involving slum upgrading in respective Municipalities; this has seen the development of the National Slum Upgrading strategy. This gave an opportunity for the federation to lay down priorities of upgrading. Communities through community led enumerations have established key infrastructural upgrading scenarios.

In her speech, Sarah Nandadu noted that this partnership has created unique kind of partnerships with settlements in different cities with their governments. This has been witnessed in the provision of technical support to the urban poor for free, giving them an opportunity to be part of sustainable development initiatives.

Minister Migereko pledged his support for the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda and invited KUT to Uganda. He thanked the efforts made by the Federation and Actogether in the job they are doing for its inline with straight forward thinking that ought to be reflected in our national leadership. Slum dwellers of Uganda should make a breakthrough in transforming themselves; this can happen only by transforming our cultures.

Slum dwelling should only be transitory and not a way of life for the poor. The outcomes of such forums should be shared with Government, and make proposals on issues that would enable us transform lives by addressing issues of slums.

Planning and urban development ought to be taken seriously and implemented. Planning in Uganda is a participatory process for all and my government is willing to work with slum dwellers, for in this modern day slum dwellers need not to live in such a poorly planned environment, we are engaging all stakeholders, said Minister Migereko.

He also cited the Indian federation; where women have taken it upon themselves to effect slum upgrading. Women are doing savings, participating in conceptualizing community project scope and implementing the project and at the end of it all transformative settlements spring up from the foundations. Let women take the initiatives of abandoning negative cultures and be relevant with the current times.

He also asked development partners to capacitate communities to take part in the development projects; this enables an enabling environment for transformation for communities to work towards improving their lives. The government of Uganda is coming up with a training policy to enable communities gain knowledge and skills in aiding self reliance and job creation for the youth, to produce quality work in the settlements.

He also noted that; he had seen many projects scrambled, because they are not implemented in a consultative way while the federations with their little resources have achieved a lot. His worship the mayor expressed his confidence that the Rio de Jaineiro declaration during the 5th World Urban Forum has been successfully planted in Jinja and he is ready to support it. 

Building Bridges, Rather than Burning them Up

The underlying lessons of the 9th KUT meeting revolved around upgrading informal settlements, not only from a communal perspective but also the creation of a linkage that can mobilize technical and financial exercise presented by the formal stakeholders such as governments, Multispectral  organisations, professionals, and academics. Upgrading settlements requires the inclusion of whole affected communities in the processes that go into such improvements. Whether we refer to the political, financial or planning aspects of upgrading, it is the initiative and leadership of organized communities that is the essential ingredient in making any objective project successful.

The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda has enabled communities to build bridges with municipal councils and their respective senior officials. This has resulted in the provision of new sanitation blocks as part of a spatial layout plan developed by the community. Through enumerations and mapping, communities have been able to write proposals identifying the needs of a settlement. For example, Rippon Settlement in Jinja Municipality was able to lobby the Ministry to allocate them land to put up a sanitation block. The issue of sanitation was indeed prioritized as a by-product of enumerations.

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Through the relationship that the federation has with the Ministry of Lands, land was allocated and, by virtue of writing a proposal to the Jinja Municipal Council Development Forum and project viability assessed and securing funding from the Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU programme) to implement the project.

Like any other urban centre in East Africa, Uganda’s urban centres are composed of migrants from different parts of the world for the purpose of economic gains. The central concentration of resources has led to huge influx of people which these urban centres cannot accommodate in terms of housing and basic services, leading to the growth of slums. The Uganda Federation was established and exists to engage with the urban community in identifying sustainable solutions to these problems. The federation works through an array of programmes that are community led in bringing together these communities and engaging each other into various action areas.

The federation has so far used its powerful tool of mobilization through daily savings and enumeration, aimed at collecting information that can be used in informing the government and stakeholders in their development quests. Through these the federation has been recognized as an model people’s organization with grassroot ties to development processes. So far the federation is a key player in the TSUPU Programmes implementation among with other projects. The federation so far has established sustainable partnership with various municipalities in Uganda and combined ties with other slum dwellers in Kenya and Tanzania. However the federation still faces challenges ranging from Rapid inflation, Political interferences and regular transfer of officers from their work stations.

So often in the operalisation of community led federated urban poor movements, leadership structures have been challenged throughout community projects and processes. However, in pursuant of the success of any community agenda, there needs to be the existence of strong leaders who have the ability and mandate of their movements to mobilize residents through planned processes, has had powerful outcomes for the success of any community project.

Participants noted an apparent dependency on technical support from the NGO, insufficient contributions from savings, difficulties with uninterested or unaccountable leadership structures, and a general lack of “sensitization” of the community. It was emphasized that community mobilization is the key to the sustainability and partnerships formulated of any upgrading project. As long as the NGO drives the process, the project fosters a growing sense of entitlement in the community and prevents residents from taking ownership.

Reactions to the Mayor’s Speech & Reports from Site Visits

The President of the Moroto Municipality Development Forum applauded the mayor’s speech and envied the residents of Jinja for being lucky by having committed leaders from the municipality. He promised to mobilize his other colleagues to work with the federation and communities in his municipalities.

The representative of the president of MDF Entebbe expressed her excitement on the meeting and promised to entrench community procurement in their project circles in her municipality. Her promise was based on her experience from the site visit on two projects one funded and implemented by the Municipality which has stalled and the one implemented by the federation which is functioning however how simple it is. She promised to mobilize and advice her seniors to one conduct and exchange program between Jinja and Entebbe and Two to redesign their SUP implementation circle.

The MDF President, Masaka Municipality appreciated how the federation is undertaking its activities and projects in such a consultative way. He appreciated how the residents of Jinja are managing public land. He added that in his town most of the lands for developments have been grabbed and that has paralyzed the development of my municipality and many others that haven’t spoken. He promised to continue working with the federation in organizing the communities within Masaka Municipality to join into the big voice of slum dwellers.

The secretary of the Gulu Municipal Development Forum shared about the problems affecting the Gulu people especially the high number of Internally Displaced Persons due to ever ending wars in Northern Uganda.  IDP’s have turned their camps into slums without services. He requested for support from SDI and other partners in alleviating the plights of the Gulu people. He also reiterated that partnership is the only way out to sustainable development.

Richard, from Tanzania Federation expressed his joy on how the Ugandan federation is working with the community and the partnership with the Jinja Municipality and the Government. He however urged the Uganda federation to assist in the replication of the same to other countries within the East African Hub. He noted that the Uganda government is committed to support the federation and request if the Uganda government can assist Kenya and Tanzania federation in mobilizing their government to support the two federations in their respective countries.

A representative of Gulu Municipal Council raised some key issues by sharing the outcome of his research on “At what extent can slums generate income to improve the well being of the urban poor”. He noted that whenever you begin improving the welfare of a certain community alone then you are attracting influx to that area. These issues takes us to the point of sustainability of these improvements, which must be integrated with employment, but the questions is that what do you do with the un-employed (those without skills that can attract employment)?

Stella Stephens from Tanzania CCI urged for the focus on proper book keeping since lack of these records do plunder groups and organization to fallout

Municipal Development Forums

The Jinja Municipal-Wide Development Forum is a multispectral forum that promotes sustainable urban development in Jinja, where the community plans its projects side by side with their respective with their Municipal Councils.

MDF has an executive Committee elected by the Communities from the community, Private, Public and media sectors. The Committee is chaired by an elected president. The Committee currently works on a voluntary basis, for it’s a partime assignment. Members sitting at the Jinja Municipal Forum come from various savings groups in Jinja, technical teams of the Council, government officials and the private sector.

The Municipal Development Forums, particularly in Jinja was widely lobbied by the National Slum Dwellers federation of Uganda.

The forum is a platform to share development ideas and strategies of making Jinja a better Municipality. This would include policy issues, infrastructure development and creation of linkages.

Financial allocations are allocated to development projects based on communal priorities, whose proposals and work plans are filed with the MDF for scrutiny, and upon verification and approval of the proposals funds are allocated to the project through the TSUPU (Transforming Settlements of the Urban poor in Uganda) programme. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda has widely up scaled their sanitation projects through the   TSUPU programme and allocation of land from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

The TSUPU programme is a partnership initiative undertaken by the Government of Uganda and its support partners to align urban development efforts at the national government, local government, and community level. It aims to:

a) Develop a national urban policy that will guide sustainable urban development in Uganda, ensure the empowerment of local governments, and reinforce the importance of active community participation.

b) Build the capacity of local governments to strategically manage urbanization.

c) Empower organizations of the urban poor to actively engage in local development.

d) Focus on secondary cities (Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Mbale, and Mbarara)


As the curtains to the 9th East African hub meeting were drawn down, it was indeed evident from the various country reports, challenges and Points of actions that KUT (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) will support one another in the establishment of best practices through the establishment and strengthening of partnerships for the better of communities represented at the regional, continental and global networks.